Date, Time, TV:
Saturday, March 31st, 7:49 PM, CBS
While these two teams have met previously, you can throw that game out the window. It was played in Allen Fieldhouse without Jared Sullinger and with a hurt Tyshawn Taylor. Not to mention both teams look radically different now than they did back in December. This is an entirely different matchup with so much more on the line.
On paper, the two teams match up nearly equally. It’s kind of eerie.
Both teams have an All-American post player – Robinson (17.7 PPG and Sullinger 17.6 PPG). Kansas is averaging 74.2 points to Ohio State’s 75.0. Kansas allows 61.6 points to Ohio State’s 59.7. Kansas averages 40.3 rebounds per game, and Ohio State gathers 39.6. Kansas dishes 15.2 assists per game to Ohio State’s 14.7. The teams have nearly identical FG%, 3-point FG%, and Free Throw % as well.
Ohio State will be seeking its second national championship (1960), while the Jayhawks will be looking for their fourth (1952, 1988, 2008).
Matchup of the game: Aaron Craft vs. Tyshawn Taylor
The marquee matchup everyone wants to talk about is Jared Sullinger vs. Thomas Robinson. While those two All-Americans may see some time battling against each other, I think it will be very limited unless fouls become an issue. Withey will get the first shot at Sullinger, which will allow Robinson to chase around the smaller DeShaun Thomas, who will play an inside-out game.
Meanwhile, Craft is a fiery defender and will most likely be facing Taylor all game. In the first matchup, Tyshawn was able to dish 13 assists, but he did have 7 turnovers. Six of those turnovers occurred while Craft was guarding him. While Craft is a very talented defensive player, he tends to gamble quite a bit. Sometimes that gamble turns into 4 or 5 steals. Sometimes it gets him in trouble.
Everyone says Craft is the best on-ball defender in the country. He hasn’t faced a point guard like Tyshawn very many times though. If Taylor plays under control and is able to knock down a jumper or two early to keep Craft honest, I really like him in this matchup.
Keys to the game for Kansas:
(1) Stay out of foul trouble. Sullinger is one of the best in the nation at drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line. As we have seen all year, this team is not deep and it will desperately need the services of both Withey and Robinson to win this game. Those two must stay out of foul trouble.
(2) KU can’t be satisfied. The Jayhawks proved a lot of doubters wrong with their Final Four run this year. It’s a huge relief for the coaches too, because getting to a Final Four validates your year so much more than a league championship and an Elite 8 (which is idiotic, but in some eyes, it is accurate). Now that they have made it, the attitude must remain the same. If you think about it, the hard part (getting here) is already out of the way. Now it’s time to finish it off.
(3) Maintain the same toughness that has carried this team all year. Be aggressive in the paint and get to the foul line. Similar to Kansas, the Buckeyes don’t have a very deep bench. Forcing a couple early fouls would be a great way to make some space in the paint. On defense, dial up the pressure without fouling. Throw some hip checks on rebounds, elbow up down low. Show Ohio State what you showed UNC that second half and see if they respond the same way the Tar Heels did.
Keys to the game for Ohio State:
(1) William Buford will have to wake up and make some shots. While he has been the most consistent three-point threat on the team this year (the Buckeyes only shoot 33% from three as a team), he has disappeared in the tournament so far. He will need to make shots to keep Kansas honest. Part of that honesty will also keep Kansas from using the “triangle-and-two” zone defense it has used the last two games with some success. Craft and DeShaun Thomas command a man on them at all times. If Buford is a threat, the Jayhawks won’t be able to make the switch.
(2) Take the ball right at Withey and Robinson. Don’t even think about offensive fouls. You have to go right at both of these guys if you’re Ohio State. That goes for the guards and the bigs. You can’t settle for jump shots against KU, especially since Ohio State has not been a dynamic shooting team from outside the paint all year. Force help from Withey or Robinson as often as you can, because that is usually when fouls occur. Also, if Robinson gets 1 or 2 fouls in the first half, take it at him even more. He’ll more than likely get out of your way in an attempt to avoid more foul trouble.
(3) Sullinger will need a Sullinger type game of 17 and 10 to match Robinson’s similar output. The difference will be in the supporting cast. DeShaun Thomas will need to keep his run of good games going. Craft will have to create extra possessions and will need to keep finding his teammates in a position to score. And the entire team will have to match the toughness the Jayhawks will likely throw at them.
Ohio State -2.5; O/U 137
I think the game will be close throughout, but it will come down to who can make big shots late in the game. Somehow, some way, the Jayhawks have made it this far in the tournament. It hasn’t been pretty, but they have demonstrated an ability to win games in a variety of ways. Whether it was matching UNC’s 47 point first half output when they seemingly couldn’t miss, or grinding it out when nothing went right against Purdue, they have shown a ton of fight. They have also had a knack for getting shots to fall at the most opportune times.
I am not going to bet against them in this matchup either.
KU 71 OSU 67
#kubball, 2012, Basketball, Final Four, Kansas, Ohio State